Performance Sedans From $15k – $50k
Sports performance sedans have been a big deal since the 1960s – a kind of hybrid vehicle that offers huge appeal with the way it blends the practicality of four doors and a boot with the high-performance thrills of a sports car.
And as our Gumtree Cars list below proves, you don’t have to be super-rich to find a wealth of performance sedans that are not just fantastic to drive but also iconic models in their own right.
BMW M3 PERFORMANCE SEDANS (E90: 2007-2012)
Parents with petrol in their veins rejoiced in 2007 when BMW’s famous M3 luxury-sports car was finally offered in Australia as a sedan not just a coupe.
The E90 blends the M3’s thrilling brand of rear-wheel-drive handling and high-revving performance with the family practicality of a four-door body style.
Sure, the sedan misses out on the coupe’s fancy, weight-saving carbon-fibre roof, but under the raised ‘power dome’ bonnet is the same thumping heart of this generation of M3: a highly advanced and highly strung 309kW 4.0-litre V8 that sounds increasingly epic as it revs well beyond 8000rpm and thrusts the BMW to 100km/h from standstill in less than five seconds.
You can even choose how gears are changed. There’s the DIY approach with the satisfying (standard) six-speed manual gearbox. Or go for the DCT version – a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – that was an extra cost but can swap gears faster whether the driver used the paddle levers behind the steering wheel or left the auto to do all its own thing.
There’s decent ride comfort around town, too, while on the open road drivers can revel in the M3’s superbly balanced, confidence-inspiring cornering abilities.
Used examples of the BMW E90 M3 are now available below $50,000 – somewhat of a relative drop in the ocean for one of the great performance sedans of our time.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX (1994 – PRESENT)
The 1990s was the decade of Japanese rally cars for the road.
And one of the biggest names to transfer its motorsport success from WRC (World Rally Championship) to showroom was the Subaru Impreza WRX.
Ingredients were simple yet potent: sedan body with beefed-up suspension; turbocharged power; all-wheel-drive traction (just like the WRC versions).
No wonder the ‘Rex’, as it’s affectionately known by enthusiasts, has become a cult choice for young drivers who don’t have the budget for a sports car.
Now into its fourth generation, there are WRX models available for varying buyer budgets.
Not all WRXs are equal, of course, and the car’s history of regular updates means it’s important to pay attention to the model-year you have in mind.
Many fans will tell you the original WRX sold between 1994 and 2000 remains the best (with good examples available for less than $20,000), while the third generation introduced in 2007/2008 was widely regarded as a bit “soft” but received several improvements in successive years.
A bigger spend gets you access to the bigger performance – and bigger rear wing – of the wilder, faster STi sedan that was introduced from 2001.
The WRX has made a return to form with the latest-generation model introduced in 2014 – simply called the WRX, with the Impreza part of the name dropped.
HSV GTS (GEN-F: 2013-2017)
We’re big fans of the Holden Commodore SS, yet if you have more to spend on a locally built performance sedan, then the HSV GTS delivers even bigger bang for your buck.
After all, this was a car that gives the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 a decent run for their money while costing less than half the price (when new).
This is a fast four-door that has simply got better and better over its multiple generations – signing off in its final form with the rather sensational VF Commodore-based Gen-F of 2013.
A 430kW supercharged 6.2-litre V8 enables the GTS to reach 100km/h in less than 4.5 seconds and dispatch the quarter mile in just 12.3 seconds. The V8 also sounds deliciously ferocious.
The 2013 GTS isn’t just quick in a straight-line, mind. It’s capable of devouring corners at speed, too, thanks to a trick torque vectoring system – which brakes the inside rear wheel slightly to help give the outer rear wheel greater purchase.
And it continues to feature the clever Magnetic Ride Control introduced on the 2006 (E Series) GTS. This technology, used on some Ferrari supercars no less, allows drivers to adjust the firmness of the suspension at the touch of the button. The button engages an electric field to stiffen the damper fluid that contains little metal particles.
MERCEDES-BENZ C63 AMG (W204: 2008-2014)
German car maker Mercedes has shoehorned powerful engines into the compact body of its C-Class luxury car since the mid-1990s, and in 2008 its efforts yielded the spectacular C63.
The badge references a hand-built 6.3-litre V8 (well, technically, it’s 6.2 litres but let’s not argue here), which produces brute performance through big engine capacity rather than turbos or superchargers.
With a gloriously brawny soundtrack, the C63 AMG accelerates from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, crucially making it quicker than the BMW E90 M3 featured elsewhere in this list.
If that’s not quick enough for you – really?! – then look for a C63 from 2010 available with a Performance Pack. This borrowed lighter engine components from the company’s SLS ‘Gullwing’ supercar among other things, bumping power from 336kW to 358kW and shaving a tenth of a second off acceleration.
We’ve never heard an AMG buyer complain about the lack of a manual gearbox, which is handy as the C63 is a seven-speed auto only – though paddle-shift levers to allow some driver involvement. (The auto swapped from a torque converter type to a computer-controlled multi-clutch set-up in 2012.)
The W204 C63 went out with a bang with the 2013 Edition 507 – a name pointing to yet more power: 373kW, or 507 horsepower in old money. Just expect to pay much more money for a 507 version of the C63.